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Dayton Vetoes Bill Dropping Sulfate Standard

Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed a bill that would have eliminated a regulation intended to protect wild rice. Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed a bill that would have eliminated a regulation intended to protect wild rice. |  Photo: WDIO-TV file

Updated: May 10, 2018 01:58 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed a bill that would have dropped the state's unenforced sulfate standard, which is intended to protect wild rice.

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The mining industry and municipalities say it's not technically or economically feasible to comply with the existing standard, which limits discharges of sulfates into waters where wild rice grows to 10 milligrams per liter.  No agreement on a new standard has been reached after years of debate, and the bill would have eliminated the current standard without a replacement.

Dayton said he recognizes the problems with the current standard but called the bill (HF 3280) "an extreme overreach." He contends the move would have violated the federal Clean Water Act.

"In 2011, the Legislature directed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to develop a new wild rice standard. Now, however, some Legislators have decided — based upon their own subjective analyses — that they do not like the science. In response, they have attempted to abolish the standard and pretend that it solves the problem," Dayton wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt.

Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin), who authored the bill, said he is "deeply disappointed" with the veto and said the Dayton administration is unwilling to take serious steps to resolve the issue.

"We have a 45-year-old, defunct sulfate standard that is impossible to implement and has not protected a single kernel of wild rice. We put a bill before the governor that provided a fresh start on protecting wild rice," Lueck said in a news release.

But two Northland DFL'ers issued a statement blaming Republicans for passing a bill they knew the governor would likely veto.

"We are very disappointed that Republicans forced a veto on this important issue by prioritizing politics over the people whose livelihoods depend on a responsible solution," read a statement from Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL–Virginia) and Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL–International Falls).

The United Steelworkers issued a statement backing Dayton's decision to veto the bill, and joining his call for legislators to come up with a new solution.

The bill was supported by mining backers and wastewater plant operators, but opposed by tribal and environmental groups.


The author of the bill in the House, Rep. Dale Lueck, said:

 "I'm deeply disappointed with the governor's veto of a bill that would have moved us forward on properly protecting wild rice, We have a 45-year-old, defunct sulfate standard that is impossible to implement and has not protected a single kernel of wild rice. We put a bill before the governor that provided a fresh start on protecting wild rice.
I also am disappointed with the governor's refusal to meet with people from communities across Minnesota that are being impacted by the defunct sulfate standard. Mayors, steelworkers, boilermakers, building trades and industry leaders all came to St. Paul to explain to the governor the importance of removing the uncertainty surrounding this matter. The governor's staff listened politely and then, without relaying the people's message to the governor, ended the meeting by announcing the governor already had decided to veto the bill."

Duluth Senator Erik Simonson sent this statement:

"I respect Governor Dayton's authority to veto legislation - that's why this week on the Senate floor I urged my colleagues to pause and negotiate with Governor Dayton so we can get a bill signed into law this year. Doing nothing is not an acceptable outcome of this years-long process. Thankfully, there is still time before our May 21 deadline to find common ground and pass a law that respects concerns expressed by a variety of stakeholders, including local governments, Native American tribes, industry, and Minnesota ratepayers."

Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL - Virginia) and Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL - International Falls) released the following joint statement:

"We are very disappointed that Republicans forced a veto on this important issue by prioritizing politics over the people whose livelihoods depend on a responsible solution. Moving forward, we will continue to work with Governor Dayton and his administration, our colleagues in the legislature, and all stakeholders to find a solution that provides more certainty for both Minnesota's communities and industries."

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy sent a statement as well:

"MCEA thanks Governor Dayton for vetoing HF 3280, the anti-science wild rice pollution bill. Wild rice is a critical resource for all Minnesotans and is the "canary in the coal mine" for water quality. We also thank the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe for their advocacy against this bill, and Dr. Amy Myrbo and Dr. Daniel Engstrom for coming to the Legislature to dispel myths about the science of sulfates and wild rice."

And the United Steelworkers said this:

"The USW joins Gov. Dayton in calling upon Minnesota's legislative leaders to work with communities, businesses and each other to find a compromise that addresses all of the issues that each stakeholder rightly brings to the table. We must solve these problems without harming our natural resources or creating regulatory conflicts that could negatively impact the native industries which provide thousands of good jobs that support families and sustain communities throughout the region."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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